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Photos | Iron Age ‘murder victim’ among HS2 dig finds

13 July 2020

Archaeologists working on the excavation of Wellwick Farm in Buckinghamshire ahead of the construction of HS2 have discovered what they claim is an Iron Age murder victim, as well as a circular timber monument resembling the layout of Stonehenge.

A skeleton from the Iron Age site was discovered buried face down and with hands tied. The unusual burial position of the adult male suggests he may have been a victim of a murder or execution. Osteologists are currently examining the skeleton for further evidence of foul play.

Roman-era skeleton discovered in a lead-lined coffin

Aside from the discovery of the skeleton, archaeologists found evidence of human activity at the site dating from the Neolithic to the Medieval period, a time spanning around 4,000 years.  The land to the west of Wendover seems to have been persistently used for ceremonial activity as archaeologists also uncovered a large circular monument of wooden posts 65 meters in diameter with features aligned with the winter solstice, similar to Stonehenge in Wiltshire. 

They also found evidence of Bronze Age and Iron Age domestic occupation, with at least one roundhouse identified and possible structures such as animal pens and pits used for disposing food. During the Roman period, this occupation may have moved to the current location of Wendover but the Wellwick Farm site was still used for burials. In a square enclosure on the site, archaeologists discovered a skeleton in a coffin that was lined with lead, with the outer coffin likely made of wood. Archaeologists believe that the buried individual must have been someone of high status.

Uninscribed quarter gold stater coin from the mid 1st Century BC. Almost certainly minted in Britain.

The section of the HS2 route is being prepared to build the Wendover Green Tunnel and the Wendover North Cutting. The archaeology programme is a central part of HS2’s ground preparation works for Phase One of the project – London to Birmingham.

Dr Rachel Wood, project archaeologist said: “We already knew that Buckinghamshire is rich in archaeology but discovering a site showing human activity spanning 4,000 years came as a bit of a surprise to us.

The ceremonial timber circle at Wellwick Farm

“The death of the Wellwick Farm man remains a mystery to us but there aren’t many ways you end up in a bottom of a ditch, face down, with your hands bound. We hope our osteologists will be able to shed more light on this potentially gruesome death.

“The large wooden ceremonial structure, the Roman lead burial and the mystery of the skeleton at Wellwick Farm helps bring alive the fact that people lived, worked and died in this area long before we came along.”